Sports Mimic Life
One more to go and then the house empties out. I’ll believe that when I see it.
Justin is our last at home. Our 6’4” baby gets too much attention, if you ask his siblings, but his sweet spirit and his good-natured personality makes it easy for us to spoil him. Justin has always been in love with the football his English Pappa loved. We call it soccer.
In travel soccer, you find yourself spending many weekends on the road while watching your child play in tournaments across the nation, spending money that an eventual scholarship will likely never begin to repay. At this level of soccer, you play out of love and passion rather than out of hope of being discovered, otherwise, you will be sorely disappointed.
In the free breakfast rooms of the chain hotels, where fake scrambled eggs and individually wrapped soggy pastries are served, there lay in wait, for a lack of other words, sharks, looking for seeping blood from frustrated parents and their semi-conscious athletes.
These sharks are usually men who offer individual training programs meant to develop the athletes into scholarship quality soccer players, for a hefty fee, of course. These guys sit in the breakfast rooms hours on end watching the athletes come and go, hoping to attract the attention of the athlete or parent.
Over the years I’ve encountered many sharks and I always am fascinated by their passion, and often the truth that comes from their kind of occupation. Sometime ago, we found ourselves at a Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Meyers waiting for our rented house to become available later that day.
I watched with curiosity as a nearly 30-year-old man spent too many hours in the dining room where breakfast was being served. We had unknowingly selected a hotel that was hosting the two teams that later that day would play for the High School Basketball National Championship that was to air on ESPN.
Our soccer boys were mesmerized watching 6’8” and taller high school athletes come and go and found them easy to identify, mostly by what their parents were wearing. One such athlete’s mother was wearing a McDonald’s All American game jersey, which quickly identified one such player as one of the nation’s top 20 high school basketball players. This shark wasn’t after our soccer player boys, but the nation’s top basketball players.
As the athletes left to load their private charters to head to Florida Southwest University to play the game, the shark stayed back and eyed our boys. Because I had seen him talk to the McDonald’s All American’s mother and father, I asked the man if he was an agent. He laughed and immediately repositioned his chair towards us to begin his circling.
It was impressive how he spoke to our sons. The boys said that he never took his eyes off them. He spoke to the boys directly and almost immediately nailed it with our boys. Both our son and our friend’s son had been beaten down by coaches all their lives and had lost their confidence in how good they were as athletes. While this guy focused on basketball, he really said that his game transcends all high school sports, and the issue is pervasive.
His objective: remove the negativity that coaches have mistakenly used as motivation and replace it with freedom to try great things and fail without consequence. To have gotten to the level of sports that our boys have achieved defines them as elite and exceptional. Motivation by fear only puts a restriction or a top end on performance.
Imagine an Indy car that can hit 240 MPH down the backstraight being limited to 180 for fear of getting into an accident. The sport would end the day that happened. The shark nailed it when he asked the boys if they feared failing in their games when trying various skills because they knew their coach would pull them from a game. Both agreed that was the case.
Those who learn from superiors who encourage risk, and have an understanding that failure is part of risk, will be well equipped to be successful and that success will be unbridled.
Those who learn under power hungry control freaks will be turned off and perform only safe tasks in their daily doings for fear of job loss. As you think through your life and your leadership style: Which coach are you? Do your employees fear you and fear trying new things and accept mediocre and safe results, or are they risk takers who fear only mediocrity?
Why be content with moderate success when mind-blowing success is simply one risk away? I often picture myself at my funeral with people commenting as they walk past my casket. My failure would be if they said, “He sure did play it safe.”
My success would be them saying, “He changed the rules.”